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4.3 out of 5 stars24
4.3 out of 5 stars
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on 7 October 2004
This dark tale is expertly told by Highsmith. Robert Forester appears to live a very unremarkable & quite boring life. He works in an office, drinks a little too much and has developed a worrying habit of watching a mysterious young woman going about her household chores..... Whilst this is clearly far from "normal", Highsmith quickly reassures you that he poses no real threat. All seems strangely innocuous until the spy & the spied upon finally meet.
Highsmith introduces us to a gallery of odd and unpleasant characters, although it is impossible not to feel empathy with the main character. Whilst there are no direct references to the era, the book has the cosy aura of 1950's/60's America.
This book is deliciosly dark and absolutely un- put downable, I raged at the central characters' weakness (especially when it came to his revolting, toxic ex wife), and felt a little deflated that the ending wasn't nicely rounded off. These however are minor quibbles, this is a must read & will leave you wanting to devour much more of her work!
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on 26 March 2006
I read this 1962 novel by Patricia Highsmith over a weekend, and found her at the top of her form. It's a fascinating portrayal of the tragedy and misery that results when four damaged people - couples, or ex-couples - collide in life. Highsmith's credentials in keeping us interested are amply displayed in the first three pages. On page one, we find the main character being invited by a colleague to his and his wife's wedding anniversary dinner. What story lies behind that? But we never find out, as by page two Highsmith has moved on to the protagonist himself, telling us about his hatred of dusk falling: "like a black sea creeping over the earth. In winter ... it came with frightening swiftness ... It was like sudden death." And on page three, we discover that his main pastime these days, once night has fallen, is to prowl around a young girl's house, watching her through the kitchen window...
From this Highsmith expertly conjures a tale of sex and murder with no sex and even less murder. The characters are almost all unsympathetic, and yet I felt for them in their turmoil, at the least expected moments. There are several rank implausibilities peppered through the plot, but they can't detract from Highsmith's brilliant control of the suspense that dragged me willingly 250 pages to the end in just over a day, and the payoff is both dramatic and thrilling, to the very last ambiguous sentence. This, then, is the good - the great - face of crime writing.
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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2009
Patricia Highsmith's crime novels are invariably engagingly sinister tales and "The Cry of the Owl" is no exception. There is a twist in this dark tale very early on as the story of a prowler who spies on a young, engaged woman and her fiance takes a dramatically different turn when the object of the prowler's attentions invites him in for a coffee.

As ever, Highsmith creates a palpable atmosphere of real tension and menace, but for me, there was something lacking in this book. Highsmith decides that her lead character, Robert, will be relatively calm and colected in the face of the troubles that befall him. This is an intriguing choice, as far too much fiction depicts, and indeed even relies upon, characters overreacting to events in order to hammer home a point. However, the problem here is that Robert is difficult to care about. He is not the fascinating character that Highsmith's Tom Ripley is, for example, and midway through the book I found that I did not really care whether things worked out for Robert or not.

Highsmith makes brave choices in her characterisation and plotting, particularly the characters of Jennifer, the young woman Robert spies on, and Nickie, Robert's ex-wife. This sense of nerve and verve is the reason I am giving this book four stars, even though I found that towards its latter stages, "The Cry of the Owl" becomes a frustrating read that doesn't seem to quite hit the mark that it was aiming for.

Highsmith has written better, but a less-than-brilliant Patricia Highsmith effort is still a very decent crime novel.
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VINE VOICEon 31 August 2008
I don't know how Patricia Highsmith does it, but as with Tom Ripley again I found myself sympathising with a man whom society would say was a criminal, and despising those who would brand him so. As the novel progresses the crazy seem increasingly sane, and the sane increasingly crazy. Very clever indeed.
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on 5 November 2000
Genuinely unputdownable, though dated, thriller about a man who is accused of a crime he hasn't committed. This bleak story is exciting, sparsely written, and convincing.
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on 6 June 2016
A pleasure to discover - being a fan of the Ripley's - that this is of equally high quality. Some unexpected things occur and it is beautifully paced and revealed by great storyteller.

I recently read Temor of Forgery (slow paced and more examining guilt and sentiments) and Strangers on a Train (very good) by Highsmith and Owl is my favourite.
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on 19 July 2015
Amazingly brilliant plotting, even by the high standards of Patricia Highsmith. This, coupled with the usual complex descriptions of the thoughts and motivations of each of the characters, makes this book a compelling read. Highly recommended.
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on 28 January 2014
So indicative of its time
and a fascinatingly compelling read
P Highsmith (so much more than Ripley) is a spellbinding spinner of atmosphere laden with tension and doubt.
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on 19 March 2016
A typical Highsmith book. Robert Forrester has to dig himself out of a nightmare and clear his name as most of his neighbours and the local police are hostile or unhelpful.
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on 28 July 2015
Brilliant I love reading anything by Patricia Highsmith. She is unique. A very satisfying read. Suspense and surprise . Acute description of just how humans work.
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